Push on for more steel work in Lackawanna

September 12, 2013 Updated Sep 12, 2013 at 2:09 PM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First


Push on for more steel work in Lackawanna

September 12, 2013 Updated Sep 12, 2013 at 2:09 PM EDT

Republic Steel is considering shifting a line of specialized steel bar from its Ohio plant to its Lackawanna facilities, a move that could see the company add 26 workers to its local employment roll.

The Canton, Ohio-based steelmaker is working with local and state economic development officials on a proposed $5 million project that would see a steel bar testing line move from Lorain, Ohio. Incentives being offered at the Lackawanna facility include an allocation of low-cost hydropower from the New York Power Authority and a package being crafted by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

Republic Steel officials could not be reached for comment.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he is working with economic development team to bring the Republic Steel expansion to fruition. If completed, it would come on the heels of efforts by Poloncarz and others to bring two new steelmakers to Lackawanna and Buffalo, respectively. Welded Tube has begun its operations on a portion of the former Bethlehem Steel property and Alita USA Holdings confirmed Tuesday it will open a $102 million, 350,000-square-foot plant in Buffalo by 2015, with the plant employing more than 172 people.

"The days of steelmaking in Western New York are not dead," Poloncarz said.

According to documents filed with the New York Power Authority, Republic, which is seeing 800 kilowatts of low-cost hydropower, wants to double its steel bar testing operations in Lackawanna by moving the work from Lorain to the region. The current Lackawanna testing line, which opened in 1999, has the ability to test 12,000 tons monthly while 8,000 tons have been shipped to Ohio.

The expansion would allow for the Lackawanna operation to handle more than 20,000 tons of steel bar testing each month and alleviate the need to ship product to Ohio. By picking up the extra work, the Lackawanna plant could see its current employment rise to 309 workers from the current figure of 283.

Expansion in Lackawanna also puts Republic closer to its supply of raw materials, some of its customer base and a companion plant in Hamilton, Ont.

"What's happened because of Welded Tube and, now, Alita, is breeding additional successes," Poloncarz said. "Things and reasons that made this a hot development market a century ago and now coming back. We are working hard to make more deals like this happen and what we are finding is that once you get deals like the ones we have with Welded Tube and Alita, others are following."